According to data collected by the Department of Transportation (DOT), sexual assault is consistently the most reported crime aboard major cruise ship lines, making up about three-quarters of all crimes reported from 2010 to 2022.
Business Insider reports that out of approximately 500 documented incidents, 70% happened on either Royal Caribbean or Carnival ships. However, Carnival recorded nearly doubled Royal Caribbean‘s number — despite having fewer ships.
Insider reports that passengers, rather than crew members, committed over 80% of the assaults. However, a California woman represented by maritime attorney Michael Winkleman alleged in January 2022 that she was raped by — and contracted HIV from — a Princess Cruises crew member. DOT records indicate Princess had more reports attributed to its staff than other cruise lines.
Speaking to Business Insider, Winkleman suggests the DOT’s statistics may not reflect the true frequency of assaults, as many cases go unreported, and victims may fear their experiences will be minimized. Minors are also particularly vulnerable — estimates suggest that they make up one-third of sexual assault victims yearly.
Winkleman tells Insider that the difference between the cruise liners appears to be linked to marketing tactics. For example, Royal Caribbean takes a “family-oriented” approach in its ad campaigns. This starkly contrasts with Carnival’s focus on fun and partying, which, according to the attorney, could lead people into situations where impaired judgment plays a role in the danger.
Nonprofit organization RAINN told Insider it creates training and safety procedures specifically to prevent sexual assault. The org does work with cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean Cruises, which in 2015 was the first company to receive compliance certification from a RAINN program geared toward educating employees on preventing and responding to sexual violence.